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Solving Problems
written January 28, 2020 by Time Traveler
Category: SupportNote Tags: LinuxCollections.com Blog    #15
 

There is a wide spectrum of conceptual models when it comes to Linux. Some people seem to have a hard time conceiving of a community or the developmental model that allows a fully functional operating system to be available for free. And not just 1, but hundreds of distros. So this reality gets processed differently by different people, who then try to fit this strange reality into the world they perceive. Because we answer the phone and respond to inquiries, we sometimes get contacted for technical support on aspects that have literally absolutely nothing to do with the service LinuxCollections.com provides. We recently received a letter via US post from an individual trying to get their HP OfficeJet scanner working, and that prompted this blog entry…

I'm using Linux, and what can I do to solve a problem that I don't have the knowledge or expertise to even know where to start? Whom do I ask?

The first approach should be to evaluate and try to clearly identify the problem at hand. Is it definitely a software issue or definitely a hardware issue? If software, it is time to Read The Fine Manual (sometimes seen as RTFM). (Aside: If you ask someone for help that the manual addresses, exasperation can set in, and this will sometimes become Read The F^@#!@& Manual - if the answer truly is there, note that you are wasting someone else's precious time asking for something you didn't take your time to find...). If it is hardware, the first attempt should always be the manufacturer. Often this will be fruitless, but it still must be tried, as it may lead to an online forum, or another resource that can get you to a solution. Additionally, there may be updated drivers that address the specific problem you are experiencing (drivers are the glue that tie the physical hardware to the software world, and often there must be a direct match between the actual hardware and the actual software - never assume "any old" driver will work correctly (and don't blindly assume that the correct drivers are always flawless)).

At this point, if unable to figure anything out, or still completely baffled, it is time to understand there is no commercial entity that has any responsibility for your particular issue. With a dose of humility, understand it may be your inexperience or lack of a proper contextual model that is the barrier to finding the solution. File away any frustration and anger, open your mind to new possibilities, and start the quest to find the knowledge you need.

With that in mind, the next step is to reach out to the Linux community. We list several resources on our Quick Reference page, and a good place for a newbie (new person using Linux) is LinuxQuestions.org. You will want to do internet searches on different search engines and try rewording your searches to see if you can find solutions other people have posted in different forums. You may want to search based on a well formed question, specific error wording, what works and what doesn't, etc. You can also look for distro forums, hardware forums, user forums, or any active community that is relevant and has a relevant section for asking your question/posting your problem.

Some other items to consider are typical troubleshooting items. Try to duplicate the problem on a different system. If it is working on one system but not another, identify what is different (configuration, settings, connections, etc.). Refer to system logs (typically in /var/log). Learn some GNU/Linux command line tools for hardware - e.g. lsmod, lspci, lsusb, lsblk, dmesg. If network based, learn command line tools for networks - e.g. ping, ifconfig, nslookup, dig.

Finally, accept that not everything is guaranteed to work in Linux. If possible, find hardware and software that does work in Linux. The true open source approach would be to accept the challenge, and do the engineering to solve the problem, and then report and offer the solution back to the Linux community. Since this can fall outside of the realm of possibility for some, it is understandable that this particular solution is not realistic. So if some program or hardware only has Windows drivers, you may need to use VirtualBox or a commercial solution like VMWare to run a virtual machine and use that "Windows" solution to run the specific program or access the piece of hardware.

The key thing to keep in mind is that any Linux based operating system has been developed with millions of man hours over decades. If new to this environment, you should be respectful of all the work that has gone into the software, and be thankful for everything that does work correctly. Be prepared to share your results/experiences with others to help the whole community. If you have difficulties with hardware, put pressure on the hardware manufacturer to better support Linux.

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